portuguese verb conjugation

How to Master Portuguese Verb Conjugation in 4 Simple Steps

For English speakers, just the thought of conjugating verbs in Portuguese can be nerve-wracking.

There’s just so much to learn, right?

More tenses, more irregular verbs, more rules to follow.

Don’t ever let that discourage you. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and we’re here to make sure your learning experience runs smoothly.

In fact, we think you can learn Portuguese verb conjugation from scratch, in just four simple steps.

Knowing your verbs is crucial for getting all other aspects of the language right. You need to understand your tenses in order to make sense of the books you read (even the easiest ones), the movies you watch or even the conversations you might be having.

Yes, conjugation may take time to completely master, but we guarantee all that hard work will be worth it.

Whether you’re just starting to learn your Portuguese verbs or you’re looking for better ways to tackle them, this guide will enable you to truly hone in on your conjugation skills.

First up, here are some tips to help you practice and study these essential components of Portuguese language learning.

Tools and Tricks to Learn Portuguese Verb Conjugation

Before we explore the ins and outs of verb conjugation, here are a few strategies that’ll help make those tenses stick:

  • Use an online verb conjugator like Conjuga-me or Reverso to check up on any verb tenses and endings you might be unsure about.
  • Pick up a Portuguese textbook. Textbooks are a great resource if you’re looking for some offline reference material. Popular options include 501 Portuguese Verbs (for both Brazilian and European Portuguese learners) and Portuguese Verb Tenses (best suited for Brazilian Portuguese learners).

portuguese verb conjugation

  • Use the FluentU app to your advantage. FluentU takes real-world Portuguese videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news clips and inspiring talks—and turns them into dynamic Portuguese mini-lessons. FluentU’s interactive videos will show you how verbs are used in real-life situations. The accompanying practice exercises will allow you to reinforce everything you learn from the videos.

    This sort of immersive practice is a great way to work on verb conjugations, particularly for irregular verbs. You can get started with FluentU’s free trial.

  • Make verb conjugation flashcards. Flashcards (hand-made or in app form) can also help you memorize your verbs. Just pick a few infinitives and try to conjugate them in the tense that you’re focusing on.
  • Do grammar drills and online exercises for extra practice. Try this collection of European Portuguese verb conjugation exercises, or this collection of Brazilian Portuguese verb conjugation quizzes.

Now, on to those Portuguese verb rules.

How to Master Portuguese Verb Conjugation in 4 Simple Steps

1. Know who is performing the action

In Portuguese, the person doing the verb will be one of the following:

Eu I or me

TuYou, singular (Most commonly used in Portugal, though you hear it said in some parts of Brazil.)

Ele/Ela He/She

VocêYou, singular (This form of “you” is the most commonly used in Brazil. In Portugal, it implies formality.)

Nós  We

VósYou, plural (Most commonly used in Portugal)

Eles/Elas They (male)/They (female)

VocêsYou, plural (Most commonly used in Brazil. In Portugal, it implies formality.)

As you can see, the subject of the verb may differ slightly depending on which Portuguese dialect you’re learning. Be sure to double check which rules apply in your case.

2. Identify your Portuguese verb tenses and moods

Knowing your basic grammar rules can help you make sense of the verbs you’re trying to learn.

With that in mind, Portuguese verbs are categorized according to the following moods:

Indicative: A form that denotes a true statement or a positive belief. In Portuguese, the indicative tenses are the present, preterite, past imperfect, pluperfect, future and conditional.

Subjunctive: Used when talking about things that are highly uncertain. The subjunctive consists of the present, past imperfect and future tenses.

Imperative: Denotes a command. Instead of tenses, imperatives have two states: negative and positive.

Take note of those rules and try to keep them in mind once you start revising your conjugations.

3. Start working on your regular verb endings

Portuguese verb endings can seem a little overwhelming at first. For this reason, it’s recommended that you start with regular verb endings before tackling any irregular verbs—they’re easier to suss out as they follow a clear-cut pattern.

To conjugate a regular Portuguese verb, you need to look at its infinitive form. All regular verb infinitives end in -ar, -ir or –er. Remove these endings to get the stem of the verb, then add the endings that correspond to the person doing the action.

We’ll show you how this works in the present tense. You can use the conjugating tools linked above to look at the other tenses for the examples to follow:

For -ar: the verb falar (to speak)

Eu falo — I speak

Tu falas — You speak

Ele/Ela/Você fala — He/She speaks, You speak

Nós falamos — We speak

Vós falais — You all speak

Eles/Elas/Vocês falam — They/You all speak

For -er: the verb correr (to run)

Eu corro — I run

Tu corres — You run

Ele/Ela/Você corre — He/She runs, You run

Nós corremos — We run

Vós correis — You all run

Eles/Elas/Vocês correm — They/You all speak

For -ir: the verb partir (to depart)

Eu parto — I depart

Tu partes — You depart

Ele/ela/você parte — He/She departs, You depart

Nós partimos — We depart

Vós partis — You all depart

Eles/elas/vocês partem — They/You all depart

Regular verb endings for other Portuguese tenses

If you’re visually-inclined, regular verb endings can be organized into tables. Either pick a few regular -ar, -er and -ir verbs and make a grid with the different verb subjects and endings, or opt for a general table with all the regular endings.

To make everything more manageable, work on your regular indicative verb tenses first before tackling the subjunctive. We’ll help you get started by showcasing how you’d put together the verb tables for indicative verbs:

-ar indicative verb endings

PersonPresentImperfectPreteritePluperfectFutureConditional
Eu-o-ava-ei-ara-arei-aria
Tu-as-avas-aste-aras-aras-arias
Ele/Ela /Você-a-ava-ou-ara-ará-aria
Nós-amos-ávamos-amos-áramos-aremos-aríamos
Vós-ais-áveis-astes-áreis-areis-aríeis
Eles/Elas/Vocês-am-avam-aram-arão-arão-ariam

-er indicative verb endings

PersonPresentImperfectPreteritePluperfectFutureConditional
Eu-o-ia-i-era-erei-eria
Tu-es-ias-este-eras-erás-erias
Ele/Ela /Você-e-ia-eu-era-erá-eria
Nós-emos-íamos-emos-êramos-eremos-eríamos
Vós-eis-íeis-estes-êreis-ereis-eríeis
Eles/Elas/Vocês-em-iam-eram-êram-erão-eriam

-ir indicative verb endings

PersonPresentImperfectPreteritePluperfectFutureConditional
Eu-o-ia-i-ira-irei-iria
Tu-es-ias-iste-iras-irás-irias
Ele/Ela /Você-e-ia-iu-ira-irá-iria
Nós-imos-íamos-iumos-íramos-iremos-íamos
Vós-is-íeis-istes-íreis-ireis-ireis
Eles/Elas /Vocês-em-iam-iram-iram-irão-iriam

4. Once you’ve got the hang of your regular conjugations, focus on the most common irregular verbs

Start with a few of the core essentials, then work your way toward mastering any other irregular verbs that might be of interest.

We’ll get you started with four irregular verbs, conjugated in the present (again, put them through a verb conjugator to identify other tenses):

Ser (to be)

Use ser when talking about permanent characteristics.

Eu sou — I am

Tu és — You are

Ele/ela/você é — He/She is, You are

Nós somos — We are

Vós sois — You all are

Eles/elas/vocês são — They/You all are

Estar (to be)

Like ser, estar means “to be.” However, this verb is used when talking about temporary conditions: places, feelings and so on.

Eu estou — I am

Tu estás — You are

Ele/ela/você está — He/She is, You are

Nós estamos — We are

Vós estais — You all are

Eles/elas/vocês estão — They/You all are

Vir (to come)

Eu venho — I come

Tu vens — You come

Ele/ela/você vem — He/she comes, You come

Nós vimos — We come

Vós vindes — You all come

Eles/elas/vocês vêm — They/You all come

Ter (to have)

Eu tenho — I have

Tu tens — You have

Ele/ela/você tem — He/she has, You have

Nós temos — We have

Vós tendes — You all have

Eles/elas/vocês têm — They/You all have

As you can see, these verbs don’t really follow a fixed pattern. If you like having a visual aid, though, you can still plot them in a grid like we showed you with the other indicative verbs.

To help with memorization, you could try color-coding or highlighting the irregular endings you’ve stumbled across.

 

This is a lot of groundwork to begin with, so take your time. Everyone works at a different pace, and it may take a while before you venture from regular to irregular verbs.

Just be patient and keep working on those conjugations; you’ll nail them soon enough! As you become more and more fluent, you’ll notice that these verbs will be easier to grasp—it’ll even feel more natural to use them.

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